Asteismus (as-te-is’-mus): Polite or genteel mockery. More specifically, a figure of reply in which the answerer catches a certain word and throws it back to the first speaker with an unexpected twist. Less frequently, a witty use of allegory or comparison, such as when a literal and an allegorical meaning are both implied.
A: Do you like my new boots? They’re made out of bullhide.
B: If I was you, I’d hide them in my closet and never take them out again, and that’s no bull!
A: That’s bullshit. You remind me of the man who had no feet. He lost them in a gasoline-powered weed trimmer accident. He was doing yard work barefoot, clearly a stupid choice. He cranked up the weed trimmer. The trimmer-head malfunctioned and trimmer string shot out and garroted his feet off. He tried to get a settlement from Weedy Chop, but he was judged negligent in his use of the trimmer due to his bare feet, even though the weed trimmer malfunctioned. Accordingly, he couldn’t afford prosthetic feet. Instead, he has a pair of rubber knee-boots stuffed with modeling clay. When he goes out (which is almost never) he wraps duct tape around the top of each boot to hold it on. He’s trying to get the boots patented under the name “Clay Feet,” but he can’t find a patent attorney willing to work pro bono for a free pair of Clay Feet.
B: What the hell is the lesson here? How could I possibly remind you of this poor guy with no feet? What’s the point?
A: That’s one point for you for asking! Why are you like the man with no feet? You take stupid risks like he did, like telling me to hide my bullhide boots. You don’t even realize saying something like that could sever our friendship. I’m basically fed up by your clever little insults. Like I say, “Let’s take trip,” and you say sarcastically, “Trip on a crack?”
B: How is that an insult? You’re an insult! I’m going home.
A: Oh, you have a home? Ok. Don’t go. Stay, and we can work this out if we just talk some more. We always do. We’re both pushing 70 and we’ve been friends since we were twenty. Remember when we used to race our Corvairs at the drag strip on Family Days? I beat you every time, but you didn’t seem to mind.
B: I minded enough to let the air out of your tires a couple of times. You didn’t beat me every time. I even won a couple of trophies while you were refilling your tires! Truth be told, I should be asking why you stopped wearing rubber boots all the time. I always thought it was a little quirky, and I made fun of you countless times. Like, boot boy, shake your booty, boot it up, bootleg, bootlick, and more. You still walk funny, but I guess the bullhide boots help a little. Are you the man with no feet?
A: Yes, that’s true. All these years I’ve kept it hidden from you for fear you would steal my “Clay Feet” patent, if I ever got one. You see, you’re the worst friend I ever had. I’ve stuck with you because you’re the only friend I’ve ever had. But hey, look here. I’ve put grommets in my pant legs, and shower curtain hooks attached to my boots to hold them on by hooking them through the grommets. No more duct tape! I’m calling them “Clay Feet Deluxe.”
B: Ok. Sounds good. Maybe I’ll see you around again someday in a few years. Bye bye Booty Boy.
Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)
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